I’m sure we’ve all seen the commercial. “Can you hear me now?” Sure it got old, but I bet we’ve all uttered that phrase at least once while out on the trails when using a radio. CB’s dominated the 4wheel-drive and Jeep scene for decades. As previously mentioned they were a mainstay in popular culture in shows like Dukes of Hazard and in movies like Convoy, and Smoky and the Bandit. However, in recent years a new radio has started taking over the trails. It hasn’t yet taken over popular culture, and I doubt it ever will, but I am seeing more and more of these types of radios popping up in 4wheel-drives and Jeeps every year. Enter: The GMRS radio.
GMRS stands for General Mobile Radio Service. Much like the CB it is a channelized radio making it very user friendly. However, unlike a CB, you do need a license. Luckily this license is easy to get (no test) and inexpensive (only $35) and lasts a long while (10 years). (Did I mention there is NO TEST?!?). This license does grant the major advantages over a CB though. First is frequency. The higher frequency of the GRMS radio makes it behave a lot better than CB in certain circumstances and makes them less fickle. The second is power. As mentioned in the title this radio I am installing is 50 watts. To put that in perspective that is more than 10 times stronger than a CB’s 4 watt maximum. This means GMRS radios like this one are clearer and their signal travels much further.
What I like most about this Midland MXT575 is that it is complete. Everything you need to get this radio up and running is in the box. It comes with the radio, hand mic with built in controls, an antenna with a magnetic base, and all necessary cables. No trips to the truck stop and no fumbling about trying to find the right kind of antenna wire or power wire.
The other thing I like I like about installing the MXT575 is how easy it is. Since everything you need is in the box it’s pretty much a plug-and-play process. Hook up the power and ground to the battery, attach the antenna cable, slap the antenna on the roof, plug in the mic and BOOM you’re ready to turn it on and start using it (assuming of course you have your FCC license – wink wink).
The bracket for the radio’s brain attaches with three screws. Since space is limited in the wrangler I opted for the remote mount style of the MXT575 over its integrated sibling the MXT500. I knew I didn’t want the radio on the dash or along the transmission hump. I plan on eventually mounting a Midland dual-band HAM radio on the trans hump (more on that later). The most logical place for the radio brain ended up being the backside of the center console. Since the console is relatively thick plastic it would support the small radio. This location would also allow me to hear the built-in speaker and give me easy access to plugging in the hand-mic with integrated controls.
The real trick for me with this install was figuring out where to mount the antenna. On a normal SUV or truck I would just slap the magnet base on the roof and call it done. That would give the antenna the best broadcast location with no major obstructions. Since the Jeep has a fiberglass top right now for the winter and will have a soft top come spring time a magnet on the roof was not going to work – for obvious reasons. Since Jeeps have had radios as long as Jeeps have been Jeeps there are some aftermarket brackets for mounting CB antennas and dune whips. I had one of these floating around and opted to give it a shot. Luckily the magnetic base included with the MXT575 fit on this bracket and gave me a solid place to put the antenna over the driver side brake light.
A very important thing to remember when installing a radio like this into a vehicle is making sure it gets clean power and has a clean ground. The best way to ensure this is running the included wires directly to the battery. They are plenty long enough for installation in most trucks, SUV’s, and even cars. The antenna wire is also plenty long enough to route to the front, back, top, or side of most medium sized vehicles. There was more than enough for my petite little wrangler.
With the installation complete it was time to hit the road and test it out. Sadly I didn’t have anyone to test the radio with so I took a chance and started scanning channels seeing if anyone was using one. I was able to hear a few people roughly 40 miles away. Sadly they were super chatty and I couldn’t get a word in edgewise to do a radio checks. However I was able to listen and was surprised how clear and sharp their voices were. Can’t wait to give this a real field test in the mountains and see how the radio handles obstructions.
All in all I am very pleased with the MXT575. It’s a complete kit which makes it very nice right out of the box. With a plug and play installation pretty much anyone who can work a set of pilars (for the battery connection) and a screw driver (to install the radio brain’s bracket) can install this radio. Since it does not require any antenna tuning like a CB the radio will work right out of the box making this very “noob” friendly.
This radio is pretty much top of the food chain for Midland’s GMRS offerings. Both the MXT575 and MXT500 are 50 watts. They also have the MXT400 with is a 40 watt GMRS radio, MXT115 and MXT275 which are 15 watt radios, and the MXT105 and handheld GXT1000 which are 5 watt radios. All of these radios are compatible with each other and the varying price points and mounting options allow people to tailor a solution to their unique needs and budget. I for one have a set of GXT1000’s handheld radios to use when hiking, spotting, or as a loner. So if you’re not ready to jump headfirst into a mobile GMRS radio install, start with the handhelds.
Author’s note: I have linked to the bundles for each of these radios because they come with everything you need to get up and running. You can purchase the 15w, 40w, and 50w radios on their own you will just need an antenna, bracket, and antenna wire to make the radio work.
Since doing this install and taking these photos I have upgraded from the antenna included with the radio to the Midlaand MXTA26 MXTA26 Micromobile 6DB Gain Whip Antenna. This is not needed on most vehicles like trucks and SUV’s. However with the low placement of the antenna just above the brake light on the Jeep I opted for the longer antenna to help with signal reception and transmission. There is also a 3DB Gain “Ghost” Antenna (p/n MXTA25) that is a slight upgrade over the included antenna and will work well on the roof of vehicles without sacrificing overhead clearance.
Disclaimer: This article is the result of an ongoing equipment partnership with Midland USA extending into the 2022 season. ECOA is grateful for Midland’s ongoing support. I am very picky when it comes to the partners I work with and the quality of the Midland radios I’ve been using really shows how patience and being picky pays off. No financial compensation for this article or from any future sales is part of this partnership.
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